John Coltrane & Frank Wess – Wheelin’ & Dealin’


It’s the fall of 1957, and John Coltrane finds himself in another session with overtones of Kansas City, thanks to the inclusion of Basie alumni Frank Wess and Paul Quinichette. Wheelin’ & Dealin’ reprises the Mal Waldron/Art Taylor rhythm section (with Doug Watkins on bass instead of Paul Chambers), only with a bit more bite and jet propulsion than on Trane’s other Prestige all-star dates.

The chemistry between Coltrane, Wess and Quinichette makes Wheelin’ & Dealin’ a particular joy. Listen to the coquettish “Salt Peanuts” vamp Trane and Quinichette introduce behind Wess’ percolating flute on “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be,” and how modern Wess’ conception of this instrument is (rarely has Wess gotten the credit he deserves for his total command of the flute, and for popularizing it in a jazz setting). Quinichette offers witty asides to “Stormy Weather” and Trane answers the old master with steely trills, blues hollers and lines of escalating complexity; Quinichette answers with another quote, this time from “Undecided,” offering a perfect contrast between his own classic lyricism and Trane’s post-modern rhythmic/harmonic mastery. In their round-robin interplay on take 1 of “Wheelin’” Wess seems to split the generational difference.

Illinois Jacquet’s classic big-band number “Robbin’s Nest” offers a cool, laid back setting upon which to essay extended variations; Wess’ flute carries the main melodic thrust, as drummer Art Taylor and Waldron provide sly accompaniment and interplay. Quinichette is up next, and he attacks the theme and changes with taciturn splendor, gradually building tension until he wanders off with bluesy swagger. Trane answers with a magnificent solo, calmly outlining a harmonic sketch of his intentions before vaulting into rhythmically daring variations. The concluding “Dealin’” is a wily after-hours blues by Waldron, who sets a perfect mood on his opening solo, followed by Wess’ piping blues phrases, Quinichette’s elegant pear tones and Trane’s fervent testimony.


01. Things Ain’t What They Used To Be
02. Wheelin’ (Take 2)
03. Wheelin’ (Take 1)
04. Robbins’ Nest
05. Dealin’ (Take 2)
06. Dealin’ (Take 1)

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